Sun in a Bottle

When weapons builders detonated the first hydrogen bomb in 1952, they tapped into the vastest source of energy in our solar system–the very same phenomenon that makes the sun shine. Nuclear fusion was a virtually unlimited source of power that became the center of a tragic and comic quest that has left scores of scientists battered and disgraced. For the past half-century, governments and research teams have tried to bottle the sun with lasers, magnets, sound waves, particle beams, and chunks of matter. (The latest venture, a giant, multi-billion-dollar, international fusion project called ITER, is just now getting underway.) Again and again, they have failed, disgracing generations of scientists. —Charles Seife, author

The principal takeaway from this fascinating book by Charles Seife is that controlled fusion has not been demonstrated and developed due to a lack of science but rather due to incompetence of management, political infighting, and a fierce sense of arrogance and control by many of the leading fusion researchers in efforts to discredit their colleagues and obtain more funding for their specific projects and laboratories.

In her review of Sun in a Bottle, entitled Pessimism in a Bottle, Majorie Mazel Hecht had this to say:

This glib and arrogant look at fusion power is premised on the idea that mankind does not have the creative ability to solve problems, especially the “impossible” ones. The author, Charles Seife, is a journalism professor who formerly wrote for Science and other magazines. Throughout the book, he exhibits no sense of what it means to have a mission in life, to want to advance what Edward Teller called “the common aims of mankind.”

Read more of Marjorie Mazel Hecht’s review